The Trump administration announced Wednesday a final version of the first of its three proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The final rule will kick nearly 700,000 individuals off of SNAP by limiting states’ flexibility to lift harsh requirements in areas where there are insufficient job opportunities. The rule will start going into effect on April 1, 2020.
Under current law, individuals aged 18-49 who do not have minor age children living in the home and do not have a disability are limited to receiving SNAP for only three months, while not employed for at least 20 hours per week, out of every three-year period. But SNAP is a vital safety net when people lose their jobs or are unable to find work, especially in times and places of high unemployment. Because of this, there has been broad support by past administrations to allow states to waive this three-month time limit in areas of high unemployment.
The Trump administration, however, has announced that it will restrict states’ abilities to provide these waivers causing many more unemployed people to go without basic food assistance. The new rule will limit these waivers to areas where the unemployment rate is twenty percent higher than the national average and at least six percent or higher.
The new rule also severely restricts one of the key strengths of SNAP – its ability to respond quickly during periods of economic unrest. The new rule will only consider historical data, not current. This means that when an area experiences sudden high unemployment, it will be many months before the area is able to qualify for a waiver. In the meantime, Montanans who have lost their jobs and are unable to find new ones will go without critical assistance.
Many Montanans who are unable to find jobs will go without food assistance due to this new proposal. Job search does not count towards the 20 hours per week minimum. And while work and training programs do count towards the 20 hour minimum, SNAP Employment and Training options are limited in Montana and are only available in Missoula, Yellowstone, and Lewis and Clark counties.
In Montana, 106,000 people rely on SNAP to help put healthy food on their tables. SNAP not only helps prevent hunger, it improves the economy and helps support local businesses and our state’s agricultural economy.
MBPC is a nonprofit organization focused on providing credible and timely research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues that impact low- and moderate-income Montana families.